Mandy Wiener2 November 2023 | 4:25

MANDY WIENER: 'Dr' Matthew Lani farce a symptom of a crippled system

The charges against the fake doctor have been withdrawn due to… insufficient evidence?!

MANDY WIENER: 'Dr' Matthew Lani farce a symptom of a crippled system

27-year-old Matthew Lani, who claimed to be a medical doctor. The Gauteng health department has since opened a criminal case against him. Pictures: Facebook/Twitter screenshot


The news cycle in South Africa never ceases to surprise me. So often events occur that are deeply ironic or so farcical that they amuse and shock in equal measure.

This week a government-appointed inquiry into a deadly fire at the Usindiso building in the Johannesburg CBD had to be halted because the building housing the inquiry was not in compliance with the city’s fire safety regulations.

So, the venue for an inquiry into building fire safety isn’t fire-safe. You can’t make this stuff up.

The saga around Thabo Bester’s escape from prison in Mangaung is so wild that it reads like fiction.

Now again we are gifted the story of bogus doctor Matthew Lani who impersonated a medical practitioner on TikTok and was exposed by social media users.

This week Lani audaciously attempted to gain access to Helen Joseph Hospital to create content – not once but twice – and was apprehended by security guards and handed over to the police. He was dressed in a surgical mask with a stethoscope around his neck – and a SpongeBob hoodie for extra character.

Lani, or whatever name he may go by, evidently has no respect for the system into which he inserted himself that he presumed he could get away with it. He passed himself off as a doctor, dispensed medical advice and sold ‘pharmaceuticals’ online. For a while, he was able to dupe his tens of thousands of followers, tertiary institutions, media practitioners and health officials. He peddled his narrative of being the youngest qualified doctor in the country and shared his story of being HIV positive. He dispensed medical advice.

The charge of impersonating a doctor was withdrawn against him this week and the case was not placed on the roll because there was not enough evidence to lead to a successful prosecution.

“The problem is that the HPCSA (Health Profession Council of SA) didn’t press charges. The NPA is within its right to not press charges. Everything rests with them to protect the integrity of their profession. If the body you claim you belong to doesn’t act when you put them into disrepute, no one can do anything,” attorney Isaac Moselane told TimesLive.

The HPCSA is yet to respond to the withdrawal of charges.

According to the authority, it is working hard to crack down on bogus doctors. Over the last three years, 124 imposters have been apprehended around the country because of a campaign spearheaded by the HPCSA and the police, with 55 of the arrests occurring in the last 24 months.

Lani’s lawyers have stated that he wasn’t impersonating a medical practitioner but rather creating content for entertainment purposes. Lani himself held a bizarre impromptu press conference outside the courthouse.

This entire farce is a symptom of a crippled system that the public has little faith in and doesn’t take seriously. His façade assumes that he won’t be caught and that there will be no repercussions. The fact that he dared to return to the Helen Joseph Hospital, not once but twice, after being exposed as a fraud weeks ago, speaks to the fact that the system is broken. How is he still getting away with this?

It's a system that allows extraction networks to siphon millions of rand out of it through extraction networks such as in the case of Tembisa Hospital. It’s a system that saw a vigilant finance official being gunned down for trying to expose this mafia. It’s a system that is constantly exposed for its inefficiency.

Similarly, the Thabo Bester saga was a symptom of a crippled correctional services system. Bester was brazen enough to attempt to conjure up a scheme in which he escaped from prison using a dead body, a coffin, and a delusional belief that he would get away with it. And he did! For several months he was able to live on the outside, continuing with scams. He was able to run a global marketing company from within the walls of a high-security prison.

So often it takes one high-profile case to shine the spotlight on an entire system to properly focus the attention of the public and expedite a response from government or professional office bearers.

In the case of Matthew Lani, the medical profession, government health officials and law enforcement must ensure that he is made an example of and reigned in, so he no longer continues to make a mockery of the system and restore public confidence.